Driving Plastic Policy: Highlights from the Global Plastics Treaty Negotiations in Ottawa

Natasha Tucker (Executive Director, pictured 5th from the right) and Michelle Brake (Programs and Policy Manager, pictured 6th from the right) with Canada Plastics Pact partners at the Plastic Action Zone.
The Alle Natasha Tucker (Executive Director, pictured 5th from the right) and Michelle Brake (Programs and Policy Manager, pictured 6th from the right) with Canada Plastics Pact partners at the Plastic Action Zone.

With the streets of Ottawa buzzing with people, and a giant tap made of plastic pollution drawing the attention of those passing on the sidewalk, it was no trouble to tell that the Global Plastics Treaty negotiations were underway in the city. MYP had a small, but mighty team on the ground in Ottawa to engage in events on the fringe of negotiations and meet with other stakeholders wanting to eliminate plastic pollution. As part of the Canadian government’s hosting duties, they invited stakeholders to a Plastic Action Zone (PAZ), gathering actors from across the plastic lifecycle to discuss the progress that’s been made to reduce our plastic waste and pollution in Canada and around the world. MYP wanted to share some of our reflections from the week, and provide some of the highlights from the PAZ.

Federal government action

During the opening session of the PAZ, MYP had the pleasure of hearing the Honourable Steven Guilbeault, Minister of Environment and Climate Change deliver a great speech about the opportunity to host the world for these negotiations. The Minister was very clear in his statement that plastic is a visible environmental issue in Canada, which has galvanized the public’s support for government action to tackle unnecessary and problematic plastics. As a result, Canada continues to advocate for an ambitious Global Plastics Treaty with binding policy measures that will take meaningful steps towards eliminating plastic pollution. 

MYP was pleased to hear Minister Guilbeault reaffirm his commitment to negotiating for a treaty with plastic production limits, and being committed to providing a suite of options across the plastic lifecycle to prevent plastic pollution and hopes to see this leadership strengthen to champion plastic reduction measures in future negotiations.

Minister Guilbeault and a panel of Canadian entrepreneurs discuss the opportunities for circularity and reuse in Canada
Minister Guilbeault and a panel of Canadian entrepreneurs discuss the opportunities for circularity and reuse in Canada.

The Federal Plastic Registry was also recently published with the intention of establishing a baseline of the amount of plastics that are placed on the market in Canada every year. The registry will offer the public access to this information about the plastics entering our economy and how they are managed at end-of-life,to better understand if the government needs to pivot to make bigger impacts on plastic pollution reduction. 

Our team also had the opportunity to attend the press conference in which the Minister announced $3.3 million in funding for 21 businesses to generate innovative circular solutions and support plastic reduction. While there is always more work to be done, it’s encouraging to see continued support for Canadian circularity and innovation from the federal government.

Provincial action

Several provinces and sub-national governments presented at the PAZ about their progress in plastic reduction and improved producer responsibility. Speakers from Canada, United States, and Spain all detailed the policy and reduction initiatives adopted and the impacts they’ve experienced since adopting progressive measures. 

In B.C., the provincial government has focused on three key strategies to limiting plastic pollution: bans on single-use plastics, EPR, and reducing plastic overall. During their public consultations on the plastic plan, they received 35,000 comments, one of the highest engagements they’ve seen, demonstrating just how interested the public is in plastic pollution outcomes. The Single-Use and Plastic Waste Prevention Regulation, which was adopted in July 2023, is focused on phasing out problematic single-use plastics such as food service accessories and plastic grocery bags, while emphasizing more durable materials as alternatives. This has included a pool of funding that has supported various projects that have avoided 7 million plastic single-use items so far. 

BC also has one of the most renowned and advanced EPR systems in the world. With 19 total EPR plans, it’s often referenced as the gold standard for other jurisdictions. They’ll continue in 2024 to expand their list of items collected by producers.

PAZ presentation slide highlighting the economic and waste management impacts that can be mitigated by an ambitious Global Plastics Treaty.
PAZ presentation slide highlighting the economic and waste management impacts that can be mitigated by an ambitious Global Plastics Treaty.

Similarly, when a representative of Quebec’s public service presented in the PAZ, they outlined how the province is modernizing their curbside collection system and developing a reduction and responsible management of plastics plan. While the plan is still being finalized following an initial public consultation, the first draft encouraged the reduction of plastic use,

substituting disposable products with more durable products, and promoting the recyclability of plastics.

Canadian provinces are taking important and necessary steps to eliminate single-use waste and improve the circularity of their economies. Through provincial plans, governments are guiding businesses and consumers into a plastic pollution-free future right here in Canada. This growing level of commitment to reduction and problematic plastics is promising and MYP urges other provinces and territories to learn from these fantastic examples of progress.

Municipal action

Municipalities were also highlighted throughout the sessions we attended. In a fantastic panel featuring some of Canada’s municipal leaders in waste reduction, we heard from the City of Toronto (ON), City of Terrebonne (QC), Town of Banff (AB), Metro Vancouver (BC), and City of Victoria (BC) about their reduction initiatives. Both voluntary and mandatory measures were discussed, but the growing trend in municipal waste policy is how we can implement reusable infrastructure to eliminate unnecessary, single-use waste in our communities.

The promising reuse pilot set to launch in the City of Ottawa this summer was also discussed, with speakers from across the supply chain exploring the opportunities for consumers and businesses alike. Three of Canada’s largest grocery stores– Walmart, Metro, and Sobeys, will provide a shared pool of reusables and infrastructure to consumers through Reusables.com, hoping to streamline the experience for all and create business value.

The cycle of reusables within the Ottawa pilot (in French).
The cycle of reusables within the Ottawa pilot (in French).

The treaty is an essential tool to ensure all countries are engaging in meaningful efforts to address the entire lifecycle of plastic. Our takeaway from our time in Ottawa is that while we anxiously await the final treaty negotiations, text, and ratification, there’s positive news– national and sub-national governments are already taking the first steps to reduce plastic pollution on their own. The learnings from these municipal policies and initiatives are crucial to establishing best practices, knowledge sharing, and growing support for reuse in other jurisdictions. 

It’s exciting to see Canada as a leader on the world stage, bringing together the stakeholders to design a treaty that could shape the future of plastics forever. While we would like to see a greater domestic and global commitment to plastic reduction and the elimination of harmful plastic chemicals, MYP is optimistic that an ambitious treaty is possible. As an organization, MYP continues to advocate for these important changes at all levels of Canadian government, and will continue to promote progressive policies that prioritize reduction and reuse, as treaty talks continue into the late 2024. MYP is working with municipalities right now to adopt and implement strategies that will eliminate single-use plastics at local events and guide businesses towards reusable solutions. Visit our programs page to learn more and donate today to help MYP eliminate plastic pollution in Canada!

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